The Monday Profile: Shaun Miller

Posted by on Sep 5, 2011 in The Monday Profile | 6 Comments

Shaun Miller’s brace in Crewe’s impressive 3-1 victory at home to Oxford was the latest notable performance from the Alsager-born striker, who is steadily gaining a reputation as one of the best strikers in the lower two divisions of the Football League. Building on his career-best 19 goals last season alongside Clayton Donaldson, Miller has now taken the role of main striker with aplomb, scoring 4 times already this season. Quick and with an eye for goal, it is unsurprising that he has been heavily linked with a move higher up, with Watford and Huddersfield among the clubs that have been mentioned in recent weeks.

Crewe’s inability to seriously challenge at the top end of the table last season and their relatively mediocre start this time round will have done nothing to quell such speculation; after all, Miller will have seen peers like Chris Dagnall, Brett Pitman and, most recently, Adam Le Fondre make the transition from League 2 to Championship. Whilst his recent commitment to Crewe is illustrated by the signing of a new contract until 2013, the opportunities to earn more and prove himself at a higher level that will come his way with continued good form will surely eventually become irresistible.

At 23, Miller will also be aware that his days as a ‘promising’ striker must be nearly at an end, and if he wants to play further up, he needs to do so soon – certainly in the next couple of years. He has undoubtedly been nurtured at one of English football’s most famous academies – fans will need no reminders of the celebrated alumni of Dario Gradi’s Gresty Road nursery over the past 20 years – David Platt, Robbie Savage, Rob Jones, Danny Murphy, Seth Johnson, Geoff Thomas, Rob Hulse, Dean Ashton, Nicky Maynard, Luke Varney and the rest. But all these players had to leave eventually to fulfil their potential, and Miller will surely be the same, particularly since those around him seem of far lesser vintage.

Moreover, the reality is that the club has been in decline. Two relegations since the turn of the century and an aging manager in Dario Gradi who seems unwilling to relinquish his grip on the club, despite the peak years of his tenure having long since gone, mean that this is not a club moving forward. Gradi’s almost entire reliance on academy products – not all of whom, unfortunately, have proved up to standard – has led to a chronic lack of experience at key points in recent seasons. Gradi’s stubborn, if admirable, insistence on playing ‘the right way’ has also possibly cost them, with former defender Neil Cox just one to point at Crewe’s lack of streetwisdom in recent seasons. Whilst Gradi’s vision of Crewe as a top-class breeding ground for the brightest and best footballers in the region continues to be a romantic and enduring one, it may well also, unfortunately, end up being a futile one if, by eschewing prosaic methods at times, their first team do not win enough matches to keep the club as a whole looking forward and feeling positive.

If Crewe can be seen to be at a crossroads, then the same can surely be said of Miller. The callow winger-cum-striker of seasons gone past has developed into a nippy centre forward to be taken seriously. Whether he can kick on and prove to potential suitors that he is really worthy of comparison of following in the footsteps of such illustrious names as Ashton and Platt, though, remains to be seen. His start to this season suggests he is heading in the right direction; whether the same can be said of his club at this point remains unclear.

scarf
is a Stockport County fan who believes in terracing, cheap entry and going to games. He has no ambition to see his club reach the Premier League, and is quite content to wallow in the squalor of the lower divisions. An ardent believer in the Supporters' Direct movement, he has worked extensively with the Stockport County Supporters' Trust and spends a worryingly large amount of time obsessing over football finance. He now helps to run the County messageboard, and is still in recovery from Luis Cavaco's miss at Middlesbrough in 1997.

6 Comments

  1. unclemonty6
    September 6, 2011

    Although much of this article is excellent, you're wrong to say that the fellow academy graduates he is playing with are not up to the standard.

    Crewe currently have one of the most exciting group of academy graduates they have ever produced. Players like Matt Tootle, Ashley Westwood, Byron Moore, Luke Murphy, Danny Shelley and Ajay Leitch-Smith all have tonnes of potential and will certainly not be spending their entire careers in L2. Also, Crewe were only team outside of the top two divisions to have any representation in the England under 17s squad over the summer – they had THREE players. Nick Powell and Max Clayton have huge ability and are extremely exciting prospects, which is why Arsenal and Liverpool respectively quite publicly tried to sign them.

    Also it is wrong to say that the club is in decline – last season the team improved their league position by 8 places, were the top scorers in the division and missed out on the play-offs by three points. The start to this season was not ideal, but they have now won 3 games on the bounce and are hardly likely to trouble the relegation places.

    Not everything is perfect at Crewe – the fans are right to miss the Championship days – but the team has some excellent footballers and a very talented squad. All that is really missing is a bit of experience and steel.

    I salute much of this article, it's just a pity that the last two paragraphs look like they were written 18 months ago.

    Reply
  2. Lloyd
    September 6, 2011

    Although only based on one showing (the 1-0 win at Plymouth), I'd agree with the article (sorry Monty).

    Wasn't much impressed with the team; no doubt the players were low on confidence after straight defeats but it had to be one of the least physically imposing sides I've seen for many a year and even the receding Arber at centre-half looked like a bit of a soft-touch.

    Leitch-Smith put in a nice ball for Miller's goal, but it was a very quiet performance from Alex otherwise.

    As for Miller, he certainly looked confident and self-assured but his lack of presence might see him go the same way as that former League 2 prospect, Elliot Benyon. Fesity though.

    Reply
  3. unclemonty6
    September 6, 2011 Reply
  4. unclemonty6
    September 6, 2011

    By Arber, I assume you mean Artell? The players are definitely soft – Crewe certainly do need a better physical presence (which I did acknowledge) but the quality is definitely there. I wasn't at the Plymouth game although I did hear that they played quite poorly that day, doing just about enough to win the game.

    Reply
  5. Lloyd
    September 6, 2011

    Whoops; apologies, wrote that last message in haste.

    I'm sure that you'll be fine in this league. I just wonder how long it'll take for you to get out of the division unless youth can be blended with experience…

    Reply
  6. Nick Blackman and Buckling Down at the Blades | The Two Unfortunates
    November 15, 2012

    […] Blades would like to see fellow Summer signing Shaun Miller given an opportunity to start, particularly given recent, brief, cameos from the bench and some […]

    Reply

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